Prior to his unanimous election as pope in 795, Leo served as a priest, cardinal and papal treasurer. One of Leo's first accomplishments as pope was to strengthen the ties between the Roman church and Charlemagne, the Frankish king who controlled a large part of Western Europe.
Pope Leo name Charlemagne the protector of the Holy See. Soon after, Leo had to call upon the king for assistance in his fight to maintain the papacy. The nephew of Leo's predecessor, Adrian I, had desperately wanted the papal seat. So in 799, Adrian's nephew and his supporters hired men to murder Leo.
Leo survived the attack and fled to Charlemagne's camp. After a few months, the king's troops escorted Leo back to Rome, where he received a warm welcome.
Leo's troubles, however, were not over. In 800, his enemies accused him of perjury and adultery. But a group of bishops ruled that they did not have the authority to decide the Pope's fate. So Leo declared his own innocence and the matter ended.
A few days later, on Christmas, Charlemagne quietly prayed in St. Peter's Basilica. Leo approached him and crowned Charlemagne "king of the Romans," marking the birth of the Holy Roman Empire. From that moment on, Leo and Charlemagne often consulted each other on political matter, although Leo resisted the emperor's attempts to influence Church doctrine. Leo also used money he had previously received from Charlemagne to help the poor and rebuild churches.
Leo died in 816, after helping to ensure the importance of the papacy in Western Europe.
when troubled times come,
and life seems to overwhelm me,
I count on Your love most.
Our beloved saint Leo
serves as an example
of the power of faith
to lift all of Your children
to the high ground of spiritual safety.
Help me share in the determination
Leo found through your Son,
and through the promise
of everlasting life with you.
From Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives
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